A late leveler by David Villa rescued New York City FC from their second straight home loss on Saturday, as the legendary Spaniard whipped an 86th-minute free kick past Bill Hamid to earn a 1-1 draw with D.C. United at rainy Yankee Stadium.
Villa's 11th regular-season goal of the year canceled out a towering Steve Birnbaum header, the Black-and-Red center back having outleaped NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson to nod a Wayne Rooney set-piece delivery into the net earlier in the second half.
Shorthanded, playoff-chasing D.C., who dressed only 15 players due to injuries and international absences, were minutes away from their second win of the week over Eastern Conference royalty after Sunday's 3-1 upset win over Atlanta United, who have now officially clinched their place in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs thanks to Saturday's draw in the Bronx. Meanwhile D.C. United now face a quick turnaround to their next match, as Minnesota United visit Audi Field on Wednesday.
The final score more or less reflected the run of play in an edgy, hard-fought affair that saw referee Kevin Stott wave off penalty-kick shouts from both Rooney and Villa, and also disallow a first-half Villa finish due to a Valentin Castellanos foul seconds beforehand.
- THE BIG PICTURE: D.C. let victory slip from their grasp but can go home satisfied given their circumstances; meanwhile NYCFC continue to look off-color and have seen their home-field mystique fade with a loss and a draw this week after going 10-0-3 at their ballpark up to this point in 2018.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Birnbaum's second goal of the year was an impressive individual effort, though Villa put it in the shade with his clutch equalizer:
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Injuries have taken a toll on his statistics this season, yet David Villa remains key to his team and so it was on Saturday, as El Guaje drove the Cityzens on with urgency and intensity.